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Brewery betters its case, tray sealing

Brewing up new ideas every day, D.G. Yuengling & Son, Inc. (a.k.a. Yuengling Brewery, America's oldest brewery), a family-owned operation based in Pottsville, PA, is proposing a toast to the many benefits from its installation of eight Nordson (www.nordson.com) ProBlue(tm) 10 Series hot melt adhesive melters and new, ClassicBlue(tm) pneumatic adhesive applicating guns featuring a newly developed, EasyOne design. Yeungling installed the systems at its 15-acre plant in Tampa to seal beer-bottle and can carriers, trays and reshipper cases.

Founded in 1829 by David G. Yuengling, a young immigrant from Wurtenburg, Germany, the brewery first operated in Pottsville, PA, where City Hall is now located. Its plant in Tampa, a former Stroh's facility, was planning to add 1.6 million barrels to Yuengling's capacity when it opened. The plant hasn't reached that goal just yet, but the beer has come to have a sort of cult following, and sales continue to foam upward, so it won't be long before it hits the mark.

While the facility still has some room for growth, Yuengling's Tampa team has wanted to upgrade its bottle and can-carrier- and case-sealing processes with easy-to-use, reliable and durable equipment. The Traditional Lager has been charting double-digit growth, while the category in which it competes—full-calories domestic beer—is in somewhat of a decline.

The brewery adopted the new Nordson adhesive-applicating and melting equipment on both its single bottling line and its single canning line as replacements for older Nordson units. It found the ClassicBlue and ProBlue systems easy to install, service and upgrade, says plant maintenance supervisor Ron Forstrom. "We needed to make some changes," he continues. "We're in the process of updating and expanding, so we're getting into a better position in terms of performance and the older systems simply needed replacing. Our cases and carriers now look better and speeds have improved."

The brewery fills and side-seals wraparound paperboard carriers holding 12 12-oz bottles of its flagship brand of Traditional Lager, which is becoming one of the hottest "new" brands, along with Yuengling Light Lager and Yuengling Black & Tan, in the portfolio of beer wholesalers up and down the Eastern Seaboard, Supplied by Oracle Packaging, (www.oraclepackaging.com), the wraparound carrier features closeup photography of the beer bottles and graphics created by D'Addario Design Associates of the bubbly beer with a foamy head.

Yuengling also uses the hot melt adhesive-applicating guns and ProBlue melters to top-seal a 32-ECT corrugated reshipper from Temple-Inland (www.templeinland.com), printed in yellow and brown. The reshippers, which arrive from the glassmakers loaded with empty bottles, are pre-erected and bottom-sealed. The reshippers either hold bottles unitized in four, open-topped basket six-pack carriers or hold a "loose" pack of 24 bottles. The brewery also receive its glass in bulk.

"At the time, we were shopping for a Nordson unit to install on one of our bottle packers, and our local representative showed us the new ProBlue melters," recalls production manager Ed Ybarra. "We then visited a plant that had one of the new ProBlues and were convinced it was the way we should go, knowing that we were going to eventually upgrade all of our hot-melt sealing units. It's a fairly simple system to operate, so we ended up buying eight of the melters and decided to test the guns."

Brewery personnel appreciate the melters' char-free performance, intuitive graphic controls and status-at-a-glance indicators for system and temperature monitoring and other failsafes that eliminate complicated programming.

Yuengling likes the convenience and safety features of the ClassicBlue hot-melt adhesive dispensing guns (equipped with Nordson's Saturn® solenoid valves, EasyOn modules and Saturn inline filter and filter jackets). The guns apply shots or "strips" of adhesive to the carriers, tray-packs and reshipper inner flaps in a broken-line or stitch-stripe pattern.

In some cases, the stripes of adhesive are applied in 3 1/2-in. lengths and 3/16-in. widths. Or it can be applied in one 6-in.-long strip, Ybarra explains.

Available in three styles, the guns are direct replacements for Nordson's H-200 Series gun line. The larger block on the new unit is the gun body, with a cord set connected to the back. The small, rectangular component on the front is the module, which is outfitted with an adhesive dispensing nozzle.

The Saturn solenoid valves feature color-coded rings to simplify replacement and troubleshooting. The gun module is attached to the gun body with two Allen screws, which can be turned counter-clockwise to be removed or tightened with one hand, while the module "hangs" in place on the gun body. These air-open/spring-close guns are mounted on top and on the sides of Yuengling's lines and feature a guided, one-way fit with the mated module and machined surfaces that create a sort of bowtie or butterfly shape that allows the gun body and the module to fit together.

As the name implies, this patented EasyOn design feature facilitates their quick installation or changeover, especially within the tight confines of a packaging station, where space can be limited, and the gun is a hot, 350 deg F.

"The gun has a feature that prevents mechanics from getting burned when they're working around the hot melt units," Ybarra tells PD. "All of the guns are the same, so we don't have to worry about keeping a variety of parts for five different units—the modules, gun bodies and hoses are all standardized and interchangeable, which makes things a lot easier for us."

The gun has a large-diameter heater and an inspection port that allows users to visually monitor module performance. Its key components are easily accessible, which Ybarra says brewery personnel really appreciate. It operates at maximum temperatures up to 450 deg F and at speeds exceeding 3,500 cycles/min.

In late 2003, the Tampa plant put the new adhesive dispensing gun through its paces as a beta-testing site for dispensing system's EasyOn module design before installing the systems in late 2004. The ClassicBlue system with the EasyOn module made its commercial debut in November 2004, at PACK EXPO International. Before the advent of the "one-handed" gun design, when a gun module needed to be replaced or when heated adhesive buildup or "char" started to clog the nozzle, maintenance personnel had to hold the hot module with one hand and an Allen wrench in the other, manipulating the two without dropping them into the machinery or burning their hands. Similarly when the new module was placed on a gun body, it had to be held in place while the screws were tightened—not an easy task.

The new gun eliminates those issues, Ybarra says. "It's safer and easy to switch out," he says. "But I think we've only had to change one of them in six months—that's how reliable they are."

After beta testing the guns, Yuengling purchased 40 of them, in addition to eight ProBlue adhesive melter units and assorted flexible connection hoses. "We were the first to try the new dispensing gun and liked the EasyOn design of the modules," Forstrom says. "You can literally replace or change them with one hand."

Yeungling added three ProBlue 10 melters to its bottling line and four to its canning line. The fifth melter will soon be installed on the canning line, which also outputs 12- and 24-packs.

Each ProBlue melter has a 10-L adhesive tank capacity. The compact melter is connected to the applicating guns by flexible, reinforced hoses with Teflon-coated interiors. The melter's adhesive-melting tank has a large opening that allows operators three-sided access to clean or to fill each tank with chicklets, or chips, of cold adhesive. The chicklets of adhesive in this case are supplied by Henkel (www.henkel.com). The system melts adhesive at 32.7 kg/hr (or 72 lb/hr).

Typically, the brewery's packaging lines are rated to run about 650 bottles/min and 1,500 cans/min. The plant outputs about 40,000 cases of beer in bottles and cans a day, running two nine-hour shifts a day, five to six days a week, depending on the season.

Packaging on the bottling line varies, depending on what's being filled and how it's being packaged secondarily. Production begins after the glass bottles arrive at the plant from three glass makers: Anchor Glass, Owens-Illinois (www.o-i.com) and Saint-Gobain (www.saint-gobain.com). They are depalletized in case layers on Simplimatic equipment from Fleetwood, Inc. (www.fleetinc.com) [in April, pending completion of an acquistion, Fleetwood will become FleetwoodGoldcoWyard] one layer of cases at a time. There are 108 cases/pallet. An R.A. Jones (www.rajones.com) uncaser grips the bottles and removes them from the reshippers. The empty bottles convey en masse for a time and then single-file into a 436 configuration to be rinsed on another Simplimatic system before they're drained and uprighted. Then, they enter an H&K 90-valve filler/capper from KHS (www.khs-inc.com), which fills the bottles and applies metal crowns from Crown (www.crowncork.com). Next, the bottles are pasteurized on a single-deck, 16-ft-w, 110-ft-long system from I&H (also from Fleetwood) and glue-labeled on a Krones (www.kronesusa.com) Topmatic system with paper labels from Gamse Litho (www.gamse.com).

From there, the bottles are case-packed on a variety of equipment, including a Simplimatic combination DP-50 drop packer, which loads two 24-packs of bottles or 48 bottles total, at a time into the reshippers. The top flaps receive shots of hot melt adhesive from the Nordson units before the flaps are closed and compressed.

The 12-pack carriers are formed and wrapped around the bottles by a Western Slope Industries (www.wslope.com) machine, before six of the Nordson adhesive-applicating guns (three on either side of the line) apply the hot melt adhesive to the interiors of their side flaps and the flaps are compressed. Finally, two of the 12-pack carriers are then tray-packed in corrugated trays from Temple-Inland by a Riverwood Intl. (www.riverwood.com) tray-packer, which is equipped with another adhesive melter equipped with four adhesive-applicating guns. The tray-packed and case-packed product is unitized on a Production Automation, Inc. (PAI) palletizer.

Similar equipment is installed on the canning line, Ybarra tells PD. "We have the ability to pack three different kinds of [secondary containers] and run three different products on the bottling line. But the line only runs one packaging configuration or the other at a time."

Impressed with the new adhesive-applicating and melting systems, Forstrom and Ybarra say that the Yuengling team in Tampa can raise a mug to the Nordson equipment. Says Ybarra: "We are quite convinced that these systems are right for us. We were more impressed with these systems than any others we evaluated. It's a little early yet to see a return on our equipment investment, but we'll soon incur the cost savings, so we'll be even more pleased."

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